Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

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Wired

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Wired

This isn’t about interviews.  It is about somebody who does interviews.  But it’s not about the interviews they do.  It’s about something else.

A good friend of mine is a high ranking public affairs officer at the Environmental Protection Agency.  She’s been there for more than 10 years.  She’s held numerous positions.  She’s excellent at her job.  Everybody knows and respects her work.

She’s a badass.

She told me recently that she applied for a job that she didn’t get.

“I think the job was “wired”.
“Wired?”
“Yeah, you know, when there’s a direct connection that you can’t see because it’s hidden behind a wall”.

Apparently, federal hiring managers often announce a vacancy but already have someone in mind.  So they skirt rules of the Office of Personnel Management by making the public notice of the vacancy very short (there are no federal regulations for how long a vacancy must be listed on USAJobs), tailoring the job requirements very tightly and then, interview applicants which, by design, are few.  Then, when the interviews close, they hire who they always intended.  They were never going to hire anyone else but they had to follow the process to make it look fair.

She says she gets it.  It’s a good ole’ boys network, and most of the hires are white men.  Even here in Portland, city government just today instituted a new policy that requires commissioners to interview at least one qualified minority candidate, female candidate and candidate with a disability for bureau director and other top positions. It seems the last seven hires were middle aged white men.

Bad optics.

So it’s not just a Federal tendency.  She says after the position closed, people pulled her aside to say it wasn’t about her.  They just wanted somebody they felt comfortable with, whatever that meant.

Of course, she didn’t know what really went on about her or her qualifications.  Apparently there was a split vote and a spirited discussion.  And for a moment, she thought she, a black woman, might break through.  But when a well informed friend used the word “wired” as part of the autopsy, she knew.  And she felt a little betrayed.

The EPA, like a lot of Federal agencies, is now required to see the world through what it calls a “diversity lens”.  New terminology for an old ideal.  When I worked for the feds, walls of my agency were blanketed with mission statements and policy letters that screamed its best self.  Now she’s come to believe that deep down, every organization secretly likes the taste of chaw.  She started humming the “Miseducation of Lauryn Hill”.  We laughed about it.

Apparently, companies of all sorts are inconsiderate like this all the time.

Wired.  I’d never heard of such a thing.

If you have, tell me about it.

Rubber Hits the Road over Charlie Hebdo

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Rubber Hits

As Charlie Hebdo prepares to print 3-million copies of its monthly magazine that is normally only a 60,000 print run, the news program BBCNewsHour reports that BBC management did not make themselves available to speak about the question of whether it would display an image of the latest Charlie Hebdo cover; a cartoon characterature of the prophet Mohammed holding up a sign that says, “I am Charlie” with a tear in his eye and a caption below saying “All is Forgiven.”

BBCNewsHour subsequently said the image is being displayed, but far down and deep within the BBC’s website.  But since this is a blog about interviewing, I think it is very interesting that management of one of the most respected news organizations on the planet didn’t want to talk about a breaking news and key journalistic issue with one of their own journalists.

This, as I mentioned in my previous post about this, is where the rubber for journalists hits the road.  All of the support for Charlie Hebdo is crashing head-on into fears by management and audiences alike, especially in European countries where Muslim populations are high, of how much will supporting the ethics of free speech incite?

I guess when you don’t share a border with a country who was a former colony and for whom now, emigration is a historical reality, you tend to be a little braver.  And when you’re separated from some of those same countries that may be harboring terrorists by a couple of oceans, maybe you’re a little braver still.

In this country, if an indigenous ethnic minority, affiliated with some similar organization, employed radical, random and guerilla style insurgent tactics of terrorists with the frequency that they do overseas, we would likely be more sympathetic to what Europe is going through.  And some American pundits might not sound so much like Ironman.

I’m not saying they shouldn’t, but there might not be so many of them.

Written by Interviewer

January 14, 2015 at 04:37